ISLAMABAD -- Former Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison by a corruption court in Islamabad Friday (July 6), lawyers said, dealing a serious blow to his party's troubled campaign ahead of July 25 elections.
Nawaz Sharif was ousted from his third term as prime minister by the Supreme Court last year following a corruption investigation.
"[Nawaz Sharif] has been awarded 10 years' imprisonment and an £8 million [$10 million or Rs. 1.3 billion] fine" over the purchase of high-end properties in London, defence lawyer Mohammad Aurangzeb told AFP.
The court ordered confiscation of the properties by the federal government, said prosecution lawyer Sardar Muzaffar Abbas,
Nawaz Sharif is in London, where his wife is receiving medical treatment for cancer. The verdict immediately raised questions over whether he would return to Pakistan, with analysts saying he was in a "difficult position" ahead of the election.
Nawaz Sharif is banned from politics for life and had handed the presidency of his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party over to his brother, Shahbaz, who is leading the party's campaign ahead of Pakistan's second-ever democratic transition of power.
"We reject this decision," Shahbaz Sharif told a televised press conference in Lahore shortly after the verdict. "It is based on injustices. This decision will be written in black words in history."
The Sharif clan and its supporters have repeatedly denied the allegations of corruption, suggesting Nawaz Sharif is the victim of a conspiracy driven by the powerful military.
The corruption controversy erupted with the publication last year of 11.5 million secret documents (the Panama Papers) from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca chronicling the offshore dealings of many of the world's rich and powerful.
Three of Nawaz Sharif's four children -- Maryam, his presumptive political heir, and his sons Hasan and Hussein -- were implicated in the papers.
The court also sentenced Maryam Sharif to seven years in prison in absentia.